Have the IRS Compute Taxes for Top-Ranked Federal Officials

Have the IRS Compute Taxes for Top-Ranked Feds –Modest proposal, only this one in all seriousness is not satire: In the wake of disclosed tax liabilities for Geithner and Daschle, how about having all top-level federal employees, from here on out, get their taxes computed by the IRS in the first place?

From here on out, anyone elected to the U.S. Congress and the White House, appointed to Cabinet and cabinet-equivalent posts, and appointed to any positions requiring Senate confirmation, would have to have his/her federal taxes computed, every year, by the IRS itself. This policy, if implemented, would with a stroke of the pen provide at least an earnest of reform-mindedness in our top public servants in the federal government.

Indeed, the multiple advantages of this idea should be apparent almost at a glance. –And by the way, this law would continue to apply to the aforesaid public servants after they leave government, for the rest of their lives. This policy might diminish the revolving-door benefits of holding public office. With one clean sweep, it would certainly reduce any chance of honest error by government officials, the kind of error that breeds further cynicism and distrust of government in the general public. Presumably it would also reduce the chance of deliberate and strategic carelessness, the kind of carelessness in finance that we see so often, that by some regrettable coincidence always seems to profit the mistake-maker himself, while shortchanging the Treasury.

It would guarantee to the general public that no man is above the law, that the highest-ranked public officials are themselves subject to the IRS. It should thus also help the Treasury in court cases where the feds are trying to go after taxes from island-hopping tax shelterers and offshore evaders. And it would certainly reduce the trouble and expense of our current vetting procedures for high-ranking officials.

Tomorrow would be a good day to start, but probably some details would need to be fine-tuned, in drafting the legislation–assuming this cannot be done by executive order–to avoid unintended consequences.

I’ve put my accounting where my mouth (ink) is, btw. In the years when my own tax returns got too complicated for me to handle alone, I did request the IRS to compute.

This spot proposal is only an interim measure, of course. It is not a substitute for clarifying and streamlining the tax code, or for tax justice in the form of genuinely progressive taxes. But it would help in the short term, and perhaps for years to come.

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